When To Take An Ovulation Test to Get Accurate Results
Ovulation tests are one of the most common ways to improve your odds of conceiving and knowing when to take your test can make the process much easier, not to mention more effective. Ovulation test results shouldn’t be a source of stress, especially when you are TTC. Taking ovulation tests at the right time, and in the right way, will make them more accurate and much more useful to your conception journey.
Here’s what you need to know about when to take an ovulation test to get the most accurate results in order to better predict (and understand) your fertility.
When do women ovulate?
Each month, the ovaries develop and release an egg in response to changes in your reproductive hormones. The egg then travels down a fallopian tube, where it can then be fertilized by a sperm. What we call “ovulation” is actually the rupturing of the follicle and release of the egg to the fallopian tube.
Ovulation takes place when your brain sends the signal – a surge in LH – that an egg is released from the ovary. Normally, LH levels remain fairly steady throughout your cycle, but just before ovulation those levels surge dramatically. Your LH surge isn’t ovulation itself, but rather the signal that ovulation is about to start and LH surges are necessary for ovulation.
In women with regular cycles, LH peaks between cycle days 12 to 16 and may vary from cycle to cycle. In normally ovulating women, ovulation usually takes place 24 to 36 hours after the LH surge. Ovulation time varies though from both woman to woman and cycle to cycle. An LH surge does not always guarantee that you will ovulate, but tracking this hormone and knowing when your LH surge happens can give you vital information about your fertile window.
After its release, the egg has between 12 and 24 hours to be fertilized by sperm. If it’s not fertilized, it disintegrates and is shed alongside the uterine lining during your menstrual period. The days leading up to ovulation as well as the day after ovulation are known as your fertile window and when unprotected intercourse is most likely to lead to a pregnancy. It is a combination of both how long sperm cells can survive inside a woman and how long her egg survives after ovulation.
Within this fertile window is your best chance of conceiving and your chances actually increase the closer you get to your ovulation day. Knowing this window of time can be crucial for anyone TTC. The signs and symptoms of ovulation vary greatly among women which is why many women turn to ovulation test results. You are at your peak fertility days when LH surges and managing this information is key to planning a successful pregnancy.
When to test for ovulation
If you can pinpoint when your LH surge happens, you have a better chance of timing sex for baby-making success. While you may think you only need to test on the few days around ovulation, the truth is your cycle length and ovulation day can differ from cycle to cycle. For some digital ovulation tests, you will even have to start right after the period in order to determine the hormone baseline.
For the majority of women, there is no need to test for LH every day of your cycle. The best time to use ovulation test strips is before you are scheduled to ovulate in order to see your LH levels rise.
When to start taking ovulation tests will largely depend on your own cycle. If you start taking tests a few days prior to your anticipated ovulation, you can use the results to predict ovulation. As the LH surges, you should be able to see the result lines get progressively darker. Aim to begin testing a few days before your anticipated day of ovulation and conclude testing once your LH surge has been identified.
Testing ovulation after your period
Knowing when to take an ovulation test after your period can require some calculation and if you are tracking your cycle, you’ll have a better estimate of when to start testing. If you are new to ovulation testing you should try to test every day for at least one month to get a better understanding of when you ovulate.
For most women, ovulation occurs midway through their menstrual cycle. For those with a 28-day cycle that would be around day 15 so you should start testing around day 10 or 11. This will largely depend on your own unique cycle and women with irregular cycles will have to test more often.
Morning vs night ovulation testing
Although some tests suggest testing first thing in the morning (due to the concentration of urine), most ovulation tests can be used at any time of the day. There is no wrong or right time of day to take the test, but there are factors to keep in mind, like limiting fluids about 2 hours before testing. For this reason, many women test right when they wake up.
However, your LH hormone levels generally peak in the early afternoon so if you can test around noon, you may increase your chances of a positive ovulation test. Regardless of when you test, try to take your LH test at the same time each day to receive the most accurate results.
Testing ovulation with an irregular cycle
Knowing when to start testing for ovulation can be more challenging when you have irregular cycles. While most women ovulate halfway into their menstrual cycle, irregular periods can lead to varying lengths in menstrual cycles, making ovulation challenging to track.
For irregular cycles, the best option is to determine your shortest cycle in the past 6 months. Then consider the current cycle as your shortest cycle. Calculate the expected ovulation day based on this information and start testing 3 days before that. Alternatively you can start testing a few days after your period and then periodically after that.
Using these simple methods will tell you when to start taking ovulation tests. Keep in mind that although ovulation tests are easy to use, women with cycle irregularities may have to test more frequently and may find the testing difficult, expensive, and unreliable. Fertility tracking devices like Mira can measure your LH levels over time to learn how they relate to ovulation and allow you to make the best use of your fertile window.
How to take an ovulation test
Ovulation testing should be a regular, ongoing effort but it may take some practice to get the hang of it. Similar to home pregnancy tests, you either pee on a stick or collect a cup of urine for testing. There are a variety of tests and kits available and they come in either threshold-based or semi-quantitative form. Threshold-based tests give a positive or negative result based on a standard level while semi-quantitative tests measure LH levels in a way that signifies whether you are low, high, or peak.
Regardless of which type of test you use, here is how to take an ovulation test to get the best results:
- Start testing a few days before the expected ovulation. To make sure you don’t miss ovulation you will want to start early in the menstrual cycle.
- The best time of day to take your ovulation test is between 12pm and 8am when you are most likely to experience your LH surge.
- Limit fluid intake and try not to use the restroom for 2 hours before using the test to increase LH urine concentration.
- Test once a day until the result is positive
- Once you have a positive result in the morning, test again in 6 hours to verify an LH surge
- After the first positive result, ovulation usually happens within the next 24 – 36 hours.
- Follow the instructions of the brand you choose. Just like a pregnancy test, a faint second line usually means a negative test for ovulation
FAQs about when to take an ovulation test
Can you have a negative ovulation test but still ovulate?
Yes! This type of result is called a ‘false negative’ and usually happens when your urine is diluted or there is another issue with your testing. It can also indicate the test is defective so you may want to test again or use a different kind to check the results.
How often should you take an ovulation test?
If you are new to ovulation testing the American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommends testing every day between your periods for the first month. For future months you can test a few days before your predicted date of ovulation based on the previous month. For the “average” cycle length this will mean testing on day 10 or 11 and then every day until you get a positive result on an LH test.
Is there a reason why your ovulation test is always negative?
Repeated negative tests could be due to a variety of reasons like testing at the wrong time, using the wrong tracking methods, or mispredicting your cycle. Before you assume the worst, consider the many reasons your test could be negative and possible solutions. Sometimes there is an underlying issue behind tracking your ovulation and you may need to see a medical professional to get to the bottom of it.
Are ovulation tests accurate?
Used correctly, ovulation test strips are over 97 percent effective in detecting an LH surge. You can increase the effectiveness by combining them with other methods. The most reliable way to determine when you are ovulating is to measure the changes in your hormones directly.
Mira’s digital technology allows you to observe changes in your fertility hormones throughout your menstrual cycle and your daily levels of luteinizing hormone are measured to provide 99% accurate results.